The motion brought forward by councillors Andrew Stevens, Lori Bresciani, Bob Hawkins and Jason Mancinelli aims to address the record high overdoses in the city.
“To put proper investment in having some type of harm reduction and solutions is very important before it grows beyond what it is,” said Jason Mancinelli, Ward 9 councillor.
Province-wide, 122 people have died by overdoses this year. Factoring in the 174 suspected overdoses, there are 296 deaths in total, which surpasses the previous record of 171 set in 2018.
White Pony Lodge is a non-profit that cleans up needles and other drug paraphernalia in the North Central neighbourhood, while also administering naloxone and first-aid to those who need it.
Leah O’Malley, White Pony Lodge board chair, says she feels “unbelievable sadness and pain” when she hears those statistics.
“That’s a huge sign to me that we’re missing something somewhere. We’re letting people fall through the cracks,” O’Malley told Global News.
“It’s a really good sign that we need to get together and do something more.”
O’Malley supports council’s motion, saying it’s a step in the right direction.
The motion adds addictions and substance use in the mandate for the Local Emergency Planning Committee.
The city will work with a group of experts and community organizations including the Saskatchewan Health Authority, Reconciliation Regina, and fire and police services to develop a city-wide harm reduction strategy.
That strategy could include needle drop-off locations, safe consumption sites, traditional ceremonial spaces, detox facilities and addictions support services.
Mancinelli says the first step is consultation.
“I have to listen and understand everything still and I think there’s many of us in that situation,” Mancinelli said.
“By the numbers of what’s going on and the costs and everything we talk about, it’s definitely time to listen and take action.”
Council will place an emphasis on consultation with Indigenous groups, which is an important part of understanding all factors that contribute to addictions, according to O’Malley.
“These are the people who are disproportionately affected. These are the people who are going to be able to tell you very specific stories that not every Canadian has to deal with,” O’Malley said.
“Even though some people might be able to understand it, living a shared experience is a totally different thing.”
Council doesn’t have a timeline for when a strategy might be created.